It’s Routine: Children Find Comfort & Security in Repetition

.It's Routine: Children Find Comfort & Security in Repetition.Kiss Good Night.61WD4351MQL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_In Kiss Good Night by Amy Hest and illustrated by Anita Jeram invites readers to peek in on one little bear’s resistance to falling asleep. It’s a scenario familiar to every child and parent so kids will readily respond to it. Jeram’s illustration are warm and evoke an intimate tenderness between Mrs. Bear and little Sam. As you can see, the cover shows mama and bear nose to nose. Her arm rests gently on his tummy. A red blanket is snugged up to Sam’s chin while he cuddles an armload of stuffed toys. A beautiful vignette.

She oozes patience–in a measure we all good follow–and shows how important each detail of a bedtime ritual is essential to little bear.  Bear insists that the ritual be followed in perfect detail. Eliminating anything is utterly unthinkable, especially on a “dark and stormy night!” This sweet story reminds parents that any attempts to short-circuit beloved bedtime rituals are undertaken at their own risk!

The illustrations are the powerhouse of this book. In some spots the text feels awkward, for example, “the blanket was red” versus simply calling it a red blanket. Nonetheless, the book will delight readers and parents alike as they share their own family bedtime ritual and enjoy the soothing comfort  that repetition and ritual sustain.

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300Adoption-attuned Lens: Kids with trauma histories need and benefit from the reassurance and familiarity of family routines. This includes not only bedtime rituals but other daily and cyclical patterns that create a structure that establish a sense of being enfolded in ways on which kids can reliably and predictably depend. Routines and rituals can include elements that engage all of the senses: music, food, fragrances, touchable props, etc. Become aware of all the “ingredients” that a ritual includes. Be intentional in creating  routines that can promote security, bonding and healing.

It's Routine: Children Find Comfort & Security in Repetition

 

Here are additional books featuring Sam.

Fear of Attachment: When Trust Is an Unaffordable Luxury

Scattered Links.Weidenbenner.51EFfra9u4L._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Scattered Links by M. Weidenbenner connected with me in many ways. First, the story is exceptionally written. Second, As an adoptive mother and a coach to adoptive families, the story had authenticity. Page after page, I ached for Oksana, the twelve-year-old heroine, for the sad reality that was/is her life and that of many other orphanage-raised, severely traumatized children who fear to trust and open themselves to attachment.

The emotional struggles portrayed ring true for both Oksana and her adoptive parents. Self-doubt, grief, loss is experienced by the entire family, not just the child. It affects the way they relate to one another. It factors into their thoughts, beliefs and expectations.

History has taught them trust is a luxury they cannot afford. Click To TweetEach is shaped by both their history and their dream of becoming a family. Successfully bridging the gap between their painful reality and their idealized fantasies demands a leap of faith that does not come easily for any of them. Oksana’s struggle to build attachments, to trust and heal is well depicted. Children like her who have experienced such significant trauma cannot magically release their fears, their self-limiting coping behaviors and their isolating belief that they must rely only on themselves. History has taught them trust is a luxury they cannot afford. They’ve learned that lesson well. In some cases, their wariness and resistance to connect was the only thing that kept them alive. (No wonder they are so reluctant to change their strategy.)

This unwillingness/inability to open oneself to emotional connection is often referred to as “RAD” (Reactive Attachment Disorder.) Many prefer to call it something less judgmental, like Reactive Attachment Syndrome. This acknowledges that the child’s response to the emotional trauma of her history is less a “disorder” and more an imperfect, self-isolating, and inefficient strategy. But they are terrified to relinquish it because they mistakenly believe it is their only way of preventing further hurt.

Adoptees are not the only ones with emotional baggage. Adoptive parents also bring their own… Click To Tweet This complicates the attachment building process, especially when they haven’t been taught how to identify their own “stuff” and it from that of their adopted children.

When Oksana rebuffed her parents, resisted their affection and their rules, she wasn’t being ungrateful or bratty. She was in survival mode. All walls up. Heart on lock down. Mind on Red Alert. She’s as adversely affected by her ill-designed strategy as her parents are.

There is no quick fix for this family and others with similar trauma histories. Healing takes time, patience, commitment. The process is difficult. Success is possible just not quick or easy.

Scattered Links features horse therapy. It is one therapeutic method finding. When human relationships have been contaminated by abuse, neglect and significant violations in trust, sometimes it is easier to trust an animal. This is because they bring a clean slate to the relationship.

This book succeeds in depicting both the struggles, the good intentions and the long road to breaking down walls and weaving family attachments.

As an adoption professional, I do have one criticism of this wonderful book. The celebration of Oksana’s joining her adoptive family is called “Gotcha Day.” This is a term many adoptees find offensive. It is seen as depersonalizing and parent-centric because it casts the child as acquired by the parents.

Some preferable terms for celebrating the anniversary of a child’s adoption would be, Homecoming Day, Adoption Day, Oksana* Day (*use your own child’s name.) Adoptive families must be sensitive to the co-existing grief that celebration days may highlight: Adoption day cannot exist without the prior loss of the birth family. Even if that family was utterly dysfunctional, the separation from one’s ancestral roots is still a loss. Some children enjoy celebrating their adoption; others do not. Let your child determine if he likes it or not.

Bottom line of this review: Adoptees are not the only ones with emotional baggage. Adoptive parents also bring their own… Click To Tweet

M. Weidenbenner.B46C2E57-D41D-4E59-905D-13B68C1D85D8[6]Michelle Weidenbenner

Award-Winning and Bestselling Author

Award-Winning Speaker

John Maxwell Team Speaker, Coach and Trainer


Michele’s Book Page          Michele’s Website          Facebook          LinkedIn          Amazon Author

Blog: Teaching Kids To Lead By Equipping Moms and Dads                         Twitter:  @MWeidenbenner1

Someone Wonderful Is Coming

Something Wonderful.612ElbG3o9L._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_Regardless of specific faith, the holiday season focuses on family, generosity and being a light for others. They Told Us Something Wonderful Was Coming written and illustrated by Bev Stone,  beautifully captures the joy which envelopes a family as they anticipate a new child’s arrival. The narrator explains to the reader that the entire world recognized that “something wonderful was coming.” Animals and insects, clouds and rainbows, all quivered with joyful anticipation. And what could ignite such wonder and excitement? The arrival of a new child of course!  The story concludes creatures, great and small “somehow, they knew about you!”

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300 (1)AQ* Lens: This story serves a feast for the eyes and the heart. Delicate watercolors fill each page depicting the manifest ways that the world brightened in anticipation of a marvelous event. Each page turn delivers a unique moment of excitement that builds the reader’s excitement as he wonders what could provoke such happiness?

All of us–child and adult–love to hear and feel that are arrival was celebrate. The age of the child on whom the story centers is not specified; it could be a baby, toddler, teen or any age in between which makes this story a great fit for adoptive families.  Many books honor the anticipation and arrival of a new baby but rarely do we find a book that expands the arrival of a new family member who is older. As adoptive parents we know how important it is for older children to feel welcome, important and special. Five stars

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Full, full, full of love.51a0ldDzfzL._SY490_BO1,204,203,200_Full, Full, Full of Love by Trish Cole is another story that elicits warm, snugly feelings. It follows a grandson’s visit with his grandmother. Together they prepare the Sunday feast for the extended family. Jay Jay is excited to  spend time with his Grannie. Their tender connection jumps off every page. Grannie keeps Jay Jay busy “helping”  which distracts him until everyone arrives. It also teaches an important lesson about work: it is not a punishment but rather a way of showing how much we care. Young children yearn to “help”; often it is easier for adults to deflect their awkward attempts because it is easier for adult to do it alone. This story shows how if draws the boy closer to his grandma and reinforces the desire to work.

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300 (1)AQ* LensFull, Full, Full of Love depicts an African-American family in a universal  experience. Aunts, uncles, and cousins gather for a home-cooked meal at Grannie’s. It’s not to observe a holiday or some major event but simply to celebrate the blessing of being a family. I appreciate the ordinariness of this.  

This book would be a wonderful choice for any child, regardless of race. It serves to depict the commonalities we share and thus, is a great choice for advancing a multicultural awareness.

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And Here's to You..51ccZotpV8L._SX452_BO1,204,203,200_And Here’s to You,  by David Ellitott and illustrated by Randy Cecil is an exuberant riff on tolerance and respect for others and the universality of our experiences. Cartoon-like illustrations pair with a refrain that carries throughout the book. Whether it is birds, bugs, cats, dogs, bears, or all manner of people, each is wonderful and valued. Now that is a message we all enjoy hearing. Again and again and again.

 

 

 

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300 (1)AQ* LensFull, Full, Full of Love depicts a variety of characters both animal and human and infused with diversity that is the foundation of the story’s premise. It reinforces another important concept of unconditional love: “Here’s to the sweet you/The messy and the neat you/ the funny-way-you-eat you/ The head to your feet you…Oh, how I love you!” Kids can never get enough reassurance that their parent’s love is not conditional on behavior, looks or anything else.

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The Gift of Waiting

wait   Adoptive parents know the frustration of waiting for something that has become nearly all-consuming. Waiting allowed us time to prepare emotionally, physically and financially, to become educated for parenting in general as well as  for the unique demands of adoptive parenting in particular.

Once the long-awaited placement referral happens we immerse ourselves in the day-to-day hubbub of family life. As we struggle to balance the demands of family, work, community and church, time becomes singularly precious. We forget how hard it was/is to wait.

One of the gifts our children provide is the opportunity to see the beauty in the ordinary, the miraculous in the mundane. Children operate in the present moment. They want to enjoy it before they race to the next activity on our parental agenda. Tardiness–an adult construct–is irrelevant to them.

Wait by Antoinette Portis offers a gentle invitation to stop and smell the proverbial roses. At the child’s insistence, they pause. The mom gets a chance to appreciate what she would otherwise blindly bypass as she bustles along. Young readers will enjoy scrutinizing the illustrations for hidden treasures. Parents will be reminded to appreciate the world around us but also the enthusiasm and wonder which our children exude. It is a treat to reconnect to that part of ourselves.

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AQ LensAdopted children bear an additional “waiting” burden compared to their non-adopted peers. They must figure out when and how they will incorporate their biological connections into their lives. Depending upon the degree of openness of their adoption, this task may exist more in the present than in the future. But, to a degree, the full flowering of their triangulated family ties will not come until adulthood. It is beneficial to our children and ourselves to develop the ability to be both full of anticipation and at peace with waiting.

In the meantime, we can remain mindful of the challenge and the gift of waiting. Sometimes it is we who must wait and sometimes it is our children!

 

Zen Ties written and illustrated by  John J. Muth introduces the reader to a  panda aptly named Still Water. A gentle giant, Still Water “runs deep and calm” and makes a reassuring, if unexpected friend. His words are wise and often spoken in haiku form.

Muth write with subtle humor and uses word play to add layers to his stories, e.g., when Still Water welcomes his nephew at the train station, he calls out, “Hi, Koo!” Still Water introduces Koo to the neighborhood children and engages them in imaginative play. When one confesses that he’s anxious about an upcoming spelling bee, the bear provides the best distraction:  helping out the neighborhood grump, Miss Whitaker.

Time passes quickly. Instead of focusing on his worries, Michael and the other children immerse themselves in drawing, cooking and otherwise cheering up Mrs. Whitaker. They find satisfaction in their accomplishments. In the process she becomes a true friend who then helps Michael prepare for the spelling bee.

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AQ LensAdoptees shoulder a lot of questions about what it means to walk through life as an adoptee. They wait to assemble the complete picture as parents dole out pieces of their “story” in age appropriate increments.

There is great value in helping kids cope with the mystery and challenge of this task by nurturing their sense of capability and meaning. Just like Koo encouraged the children to engage with their neighbor, parents can encourage their child’s willingness to “help.” Sometimes this assistance increases the work instead of lessening it. However, it is by doing that children learn and experience the pleasure of contributing to the family.

The challenge for parents is to “wait” for their children’s learning curves to work through the inept stage until they arrive at the point where their efforts actually.  Encouraging this burgeoning capability benefits everyone, Admittedly, it isn’t easy for parent or child to wait until mastery has replaced the struggling beginner stage.

 

Waiting is an early picture book written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes. A variety of toys rest on a windowsill. Each awaits something different. As the story unfolds, each finally receives their wish. While they wait they spend their time observing the world around them. During that period of waiting, they appreciate many wonderful things. The pastel illustrations drawn with colored pencils and watercolor exude a dreamy quality that strike a complimentary note to the text.

Young readers will enjoy perusing the illustrations for elements that might normally go unnoticed. Each of the toys finds something to appreciate. Their eclectic interests help children to see and value things that might not immediately come to their mind. As with the other two books reviewed in this post, Waiting depicts a strategy that concentrates on appreciating the present even while anticipating the events of the future.

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AQ Lens: Beyond the other insights offered by the two previous books, Waiting includes a unique story thread: one of the toys is a Russian nesting-type doll in the shape of a cat. The reader is asked to predict what the cat is awaiting. Nothing seems obvious. She does not appear to be waiting for any of the same things as the other toys. Finally, the illustration reveals the little cats inside. This offers an easy segue to talk about pregnancy, birth and adoption and how both the expectant mother and the adoptive parents spent their time waiting for the child to arrive. Always allow your child’s maturity and comfort level to guide your conversation. Create an atmosphere of approachability , openness and acceptance.

 

 

Ditch Perfect. Embrace OK.

the oka bookAmy Krause Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld have collaborated on many delightful books. The OK Book  is another of their quirky and insightful picture books that delivers a powerful message: sometimes “OK” is the channel to excellence not its enemy! Concise text is paired with illustrations that perfectly further the larger story without being preachy.

Rosenthal has an exceptional talent for capturing a simple premise and highlighting it in a way that makes readers think, “It’s obvious and so true. How did I miss that?

Lichtenheld’s brilliant and precise illustrations transform the letters O and  into a recognizable stick figure who serves as the main character. Simple, unexpected and very effective, these graphics bring the story to life!

Young children dream of being the best super hero, athlete, or most-liked friend. Their fantasies overflow with images of themselves shining above the competition. Such magical thinking rarely understands that it takes time consuming effort and practice to achieve such excellence. Much to their chagrin, they must work through the often-discouraging process–and hard work–of being a beginner who struggles and fails through multiple attempts. All too often, their spirits waiver and they give up. This book reinforces the idea that OK is the first step on the long road to expertise. As parents we work to encourage this attitude of perseverance  while they march their way towards mastery.

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magnifying lens AQ.2AQ Lens: Many adopted children struggle with fears of rejection and of not being good enough. Some pursue perfectionism in a mistaken belief that it is the only way to prevent the loss of their adoptive family. After all, their first family rejected* them. Why couldn’t it happen again? This need to be perfect makes them fear failure. Although most kids hate the floundering feeling of being a beginner, for some adopted children this weakness feels threatening and unsafe. To ensure they always measure up, they tackle only what they know they can do well.

The OK Book is an excellent way to talk about the challenge and importance of the uphill journey from beginner to winner. It can help parents uncover their child’s hidden beliefs and fears. Too often kids infer that parental love is conditional on performance. This peek into their hearts and mind offers a wonderful chance for parents to reassure their child and become closer. These types of conversations help to build essential life skills: security and emotional literacy.

Bonus: the message of The OK Book is often one which parents also need to hear and remember.

*Adoptees yearn for frequent reassurance that their adoption did NOT result from the child’s inadequacies but from adult problems, lack of resources and capabilities.

 

“You’re Lovable to Me” Forever

In the vein of Love You Forever by Robert Munsch You’re Lovable to Me by Kat Yeh and illustrated by Sue Anderson sends a reassuring message to children that their parents will love them unconditionally. Mama’s love is steady whether bunny is “sad…or he’s frightened…or she’s lonely…or he’s worried…or she’s mad….” In other words, Mama loves her little ones when it is easy and when it is challenging. Children need  that reassuring message repeated regularly.

As in Munsch’s book, the story extends the thread of unconditional love back to the grandfather as he tucks a blanket around his now-adult daughter. What a lovely way to model the permanent need we have for nurturing, kindness and caring-in-action.

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AQ Lens: Adopted children benefit from frequent reassurance that they are fully accepted into the family, that their belonging exists independent of their measuring up or behaving in a certain way. The story does this well. It’s gentle illustrations exude a sweet nurturing feel. Moreover, the behaviors and emotions that the story mentions cover a broad spectrum.

This creates an easy teaching moment for exploring the complexity of emotions which children experience and can help them develop a broad vocabulary of emotions. This helps children identify and manage their feelings.     starstarstarstarstar

 

My Family Is ForeverMy Family Is Forever by Nancy Carlson features an Asian-American child–with Caucasian parents–and follows common themes in children’s books about adoption. First, loving relationships define families; they need not look similar in order to be a family. Second, it describes the parent’s yearning for a child, their working with an adoption counselor, their  struggle to wait until receiving a referral, the parents’ plane flight to meet their child and, finally the child’s thoughts about her birth parents.

The story concludes with the familiar refrain, Families are forever.”

 

 

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AQ Lens: Adopted children enjoy hearing their adoption stories and they take delight in knowing how happy their parents were to have them join the family. This story does a good job on that count.

I wish it included more direct reassurance that the adoptive parents welcome the girl’s questions and mixed feelings about the more difficult/painful parts of adoption. (When reading My Family Is Forever, parents can take the opportunity to hold that exact conversation!)

Adoptees know through direct experience that families can be broken apart. It’s already happened to them at least once (when they were separated from their birth families.) Thus, in an attempt to reassure children, adoptive families are frequently described as forever families.  It is important that adoptive families also convey that their birth families are also forever a part of the adoptee.

(I wish we could coin a new phrase that reassures children without subtly implying that their birth family is somehow no longer a part of them. Suggestions and discussion are welcome!)                  starstarstarstar

A Taste of Asia: Four Books That Expand Children’s Multiculturalism

The Magic BrushThe Magic Brush: A Story of Love, Family, and Chinese Characters has much to offer readers with an interest in diversity. (That includes all of us, right?) Written by Kat Yeh, (an Asian-American,) and illustrated by Huy Voun Lee (who was born in Cambodia) whose real-life experiences as Asian Americans infuses the story with authenticity.

The illustrations enrich the story effectively, e.g., when Grandfather stands in his doorway and wiggles his finger to invite Jasmine to enter. Along with her, the reader discovers a space infused with Asian elements: furniture, wall hanging, drawing table etc.

But the story  also captures a universal moment, of a grandparent passing on his wisdom, engaging his granddaughter in both the magical and factual elements of their culture. Huy Voun Lee skillfullly inserts Chinese characters so they both embellish the illustration and offer a chance to learn the characters. The book includes a pronunciation guide and a very brief  summary of Chinese art as well as explanations of the food treats described in the story.

Beyond the fascinating and valuable peek at Chinese culture, Kat Yeh relates a universal story of family connections.

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New ClothesOur next title offers a peek into Korean culture. Written and illustrated by Hyun-joo Bao, New Clothes for New Year’s Day  begins with a girl gazing from an open window. A breeze billows invitingly, beckoning the reader to step beyond it and explore the many ways the New Year is welcomed in Korea.

The story unfolds through the experiences of this small girl as she completes the complicated ritual of dressing for New Year’s Day in traditional Korean garb. Bright illustrations radiate energy as the tiny child struggles to don each item of her outfit. As she works with great care, ensuring that she places each element correctly, the reader observes her respectfulness for the traditions as evidenced in her dedication to detail. “It’s not easy…,” she says.

As in The Magic Brush: the artwork overflows with detail. This time we enjoy the beauty of Korean furnishings, style, colors and patterns. End matter includes information about how the holiday is observed, background about the traditional costume and the meaning behind it. A feast for the eyes, and an enjoyable venture into another culture.

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Zen ShortsAs a Caldecott Honor Book, Zen Shorts delivers breathtaking illustrations. This story too, begins with a child at a doorway. A boy tries desperately to capture his older brother’s attention. He yells through the closed door, “There’s a bear outside!” Brother remains skeptical and the door remains shut. Karl relates a play-by-play of the bear’s antics. Finally, his brother Michael opens the door, the siblings’ adventure begins.

They encounter Stillwater, a philosophizing panda bear who is armed with gentle Zen wisdom and an arsenal of anecdotes. A charming story that uses metaphors to make important points which are valuable for all –children as well as grown ups.

Zen Shorts is another double-barreled success both visually and textually satisfying that shows us “… how Addy, Michael,Karl–and Stillwater–became friends.” This lesson in sibling harmony is a  welcome one.

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LIVING IN CINAWritten by Carole P. Roman, a multi-award-winning author, If You Were Me and Lived in China is part of a series of non-fiction books which explore life in other countries through a child’s eyes. The book visits some of the cultural landmarks, introduces some vocabulary and, describes cultural traditions–ancient and modern.

An excellent first introduction to China. Also includes a pronunciation guide. Illustrated by Kelsea Wierenga.

Check out some of her other titles in this series. They include lots of great information and help us prepare children for life as global citizens. #ReadYourWorld #DiverseKidLit #MCBD #WNDB

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AQ Lens: Beyond the obvious benefits of putting children in touch with their cultural roots, by their very existence these books send a message that these traditions are worth noting, following and showcasing. It is an easy step to carrying the same sense of value to a child’s roots. Coming from another culture makes one “different.” But it isn’t something to hide; it is something to share and honor. Readers will notice the effort and determination which the main characters demonstrate.  Skills and capabilities grow out of hard work. This is a great message for them to absorb!

These books also demonstrate the universality of common daily activities: dressing, enjoying time with grandparents, preparing meals, celebrating holidays. As the reader follows the main characters through the narrative, children can note the value of self reliance, connection to family and of being part of a history–personal, familial as well as cultural. Children will enjoy learning about other cultures, whether it is part of their history or not. By expanding our children’s exposure to a variety of cultures and traditions, we better prepare them for life in this increasingly interconnected world. It is important for us to prepare them for this global citizenship.

 

Summertime and the Living Is … Easy?

firefly nightMy memories of childhood summers conjure thoughts of unscheduled days at the beach, of playing with friends, all  balanced with lots of time to daydream, read and spend time with family. (We had no TV, if you can even imagine that!) Now summer looks and feels quite different. Day care, summer camps, programmed activities and TV dominate many kids’ summer days. Parents struggle to engage their childrens’ attention, to divert them from the various tech and media available to them.

Still, summer offers a wonderful opportunity to build positive memories of time having fun together. Fun is FUN-damental to building strong family ties. From my own childhood, I recall scampering across the grass collecting fireflies. Their glow seemed magical and filled us with wonder. Because It’s a Firefly Night by Diane Ochiltree captures this delightful moment, I truly enjoyed reading it. The little girl’s excitement is palpable when her Daddy tell her, “It’s a firefly night.” The reader senses that this is a special ritual that the child shares with her daddy and something she will treasure down the years of her life. Betsy Snyder’s luminous art brings the rhyming/counting text to life. Children can make a game of searching for and tracking the number of bugs, flowers, etc. And have fun in the process!

Goodnight, fireflyFor another variation on the firefly theme, also consider Goodnight, Firefly by Gabriel Aborozo. Vivid inky black illustrations splashed with small strokes of glowing yellow and apple red set the perfect backdrop for the text. “Nina was scared of the dark…” Children will identify with Nina’s fear, “scary shadows … whispering of monsters…” and her great relief when she spies the welcome light of fireflies “dancing.”

In both books, the girl treasures her captive firefly and yet … she comes to understand that she must release it so that the firefly can live. This is a great concept for children—and parents–to understand. We seek to raise children who grow to be strong and independent, to provide them with sturdy “roots and wings.” Unless we allow freedom, relationships are built on captivity, not trust and respect. Like the firefly, we must release our children and free them to follow their paths. In Albert Schweitzer’s words: “If you love something so much, let it go. If it comes back, it was meant to be; if it doesn’t, it never was.”

 

Wondering about the science behind a firefly’s luminous glow? Check out this link from National Geographic.

magnifying lens AQ.2AQ*Lens: We parents must balance our roles as leaders, teachers and the family “authority,” with time enjoying one another. For children who struggle to maintain self-regulation, this is especially necessary.  (The challenge is to have fun without devolving into chaos.) Strong relationships weave families together.

If we hope to grow children who absorb and embrace our family values and beliefs, we must build relationships of respect and cooperation then cement them with a hefty dose of fun. In the absence of fun, kids will view parents primarily as the enforcers not the compass, the leaders, and heart of their world. Parents who balance “enforcement” mode with plenty of family fun keep kids engaged and interested in spending time as a family. Spending time “in joy” together is a key component of attachment, a high priority in adoptive families.

How will you create magic family moments? Hunting fireflies? Counting Stars? Watching the sunset? What ideas can you share with us?

 

Valentine Lullaby

lullaby.langstonThis week we celebrate Valentine’s Day and the gift that is love. What greater blessing than that of a mother’s love? It is exquisitely depicted in the book, Lullaby (for a Black Mother.) Based on the Langston Hughes poem, it is illustrated by Sean Qualls in acrylic, pencil and collage.

This lovely book beautifully captures the intimacy of a bedtime ritual. The text is melodious, soothing and accompanied by pictures in the perfect palette of soft hues of blues, purples and aqua.

When I view the book’s universal theme of mother/child connection through the lens of adoption-attunement, what do I notice?

 

First, in contrast to the “color blind” approach often advocated, the poem highlights the baby’s race: “My little black baby/My dark body’s baby.” Color is a point of connection, of joy, of beauty. Race is not erased, over-looked or ignored; it is celebrated.

Second, for trans-racially adopted children, this book might open a conversation about how his birth mother might have held him and sung similar feelings. This would be a lovely idea to plant in a child’s heart and provides a concrete way of living an attitude of respect for a child’s birth family.

Regardless of race, this is a visual delight, an evocative and calming bedtime read.

 

 

 

 

 

10 Great Things about Story Time: Beyond the Simple Page Turn

Family reading togetherBooks offer an amazingly rich resource for adoptive families. Beyond pretty illustrations or entertaining story lines, they offer adoptive families so much more. Here are ten benefits to consider.

1. Books create a cuddly moment when parent and child focus on  a joint activity. This makes it an example of the proverbial “quality time” dearly sought by busy parents.

2. Reading together offers a great chance for dialog as parent and child chat about the story, ask and answer questions that arise and explore the illustrations. Parents may be quite surprised by the content of these discussions. Often hidden beliefs, misunderstandings and fears are exposed. Parents can correct any misconceptions, address any fears or concerns and enjoy discovering their child’s view of the world.

3. Reading together demonstrates that parents believe in the value of reading. This sends an important message because reading is a basic skill for school survival and success.

Little boy waiting to Santa during The Christmas Eve.4. Books open a window onto a wider world. This allows children to learn how other kids think about and handle their adoption. This introduces them to their adoptive peer group which helps them understand they are not the only one in the adoption “boat.” They also discover that adoption, like families can take many shapes and look quite varied.

5. Books operate as mirrors when they include illustrations and story lines that reflect a child’s lived experience. A child’s shelf should include books that value who and what he is. They must depict more than the majority culture. Adoptive families have a vested interest in supporting multicultural books and “differences. After all adoption itself is a “different” way of building a family.

6. Adoption books can help children work through some of the “hard stuff” that is part of the task adoptees face. Be sure  the family bookshelf is stocked with several quality books about adoption. This allows kids to choose a specific book from their shelf. Savvy parents will follow a child’s lead and will be aware of how a book affects their child. Read all or part of a book. Completion is not the goal. Connection and understanding is.

7. If kids never ask for an adoption book, put on your detective’s hat to discover why. Do you have a wide enough selection? Have you clearly conveyed that adoption is a welcome topic in the family? Verify that your child understands that adoption is a permitted topic. Many kids–accurately or not–believe that talking about their adoption distresses or overwhelms their parents. Other kids fear that bringing up the “harder stuff” might cause parents to “send them back.” In the absence of clearly demonstrated permissions, kids will stuff their curiosity, concerns and worries. Instead of depending on the parent, these kids shoulder their worries and stresses alone.

8. Books offer an easy non-threatening way for kids to bring up adoption. A child will rarely ask, “I’d like to talk about adoption.” But they will frequently pick a book off the shelf and request that it be read.

9. The same is true for parents. If they suspect a child is struggling with a part of his adoption experience, a book can offer a neutral way of introducing the topic.

10. Books can suggest ways of thinking about, handling and discussing adoption that neither the child or parent might develop on their own.

And a bonus:

???????????11. When parent and child share a book that touches them deeply, that enables them to face the “big stuff” as a team, their relationship grows more intimate. Rooted in truth. Forged through facing difficulty together, their connection strengthens because they know it can handle their mutual reality, “warts and all.” Parents become the parachute that brings them safely to land on their feet.

In recent years, now-adult adoptees have spoken in great numbers to tell what did and did not work for them growing up adopted, as well as what they wish had happened. Their courage has expanded our understanding of what an adopted child needs. Their voice provides an inside track to understanding because they live(d) adoption. Their experience is undiluted, first-hand.

We must recognize that the voices of adult adoptees are precious, valid and offer an invaluable insight into the adoption experience. Their hard-won wisdom represents a treasure of insight to adoption professionals and adoptive parents and lights a path to a healthier adoption experience moving forward. Significant change has occurred in adoption practice during the past two decades and so much more remains to be done. We must be dedicated to our children’s Truth with at LEAST as much passion as we pursued their joining our families. Adoption is not a fairy tale with a perfect happily-ever-after ending. It’s complicated, rooted in loss and often clouded in euphemism. Listening to adoptees’ voices shows that we care about them, value their honesty and acknowledge that their adoption was/is not all rose petals and sunshine. Their losses are genuine and worthy of recognition. Books offer an excellent channel to accomplish that.